Every week Pat Otto walks the aisles of a mini grocery store. She’s not stocking up on her weekly supplies, she’s bagging food for those in need at C.R.O.S.S. food shelf.
“Spending my time here is important to me,” she said as she put green beans in a paper bag. “This isn’t like a job at all, it’s something I really enjoy.”
Otto enjoys it so much, she’s been a volunteer at this food shelf for 11 years. “Once you see the need and realize how important this is to people, it keeps you coming back.”
This retired nurse from Maple Grove is one of more than 500 volunteers that help C.R.O.S.S. (Christians Reaching Out in Social Service) provide a variety services to those in need, including a food shelf, rental assistance and a clothing closet.
C.R.O.S.S. serves the north western portion of Hennepin County, including Champlin, Corcoran, Dayton, Hassan, Maple Grove, Osseo, and Rogers.
Otto spends most of her volunteer hours bagging groceries for people to pick up. Coordinator Char Lake says Otto is a model volunteer, one others look up to.
“It’s hard not to see her as a shining example here,” Lake said. “She provides a human touch for people during a time when they need it most.”
Otto says she prides herself on learning people’s names and making sure that those who come to the food shelf aren’t embarrassed about being there.
“It’s amazing how many people are ashamed to come here,” she said. “No one wants to ask for a hand out, but I think it is important for people to realize there is no shame in asking for a helping hand now and then.”
On average, 6,180 families go through the food shelf each year. People can pick up three to five days of food per month at their Rogers location that sits behind Cabela’s.
“We try to provide more than just food,” Lake said. “We try to provide a smiling face that reassures people that this is not a degrading place to visit and volunteers like Pat provide that positive atmosphere.”
Otto says she has no intention of giving up her volunteer post anytime soon.
“I think all of us are loyal volunteers,” she said. “It’s easy to be loyal when you know you’re making a difference.”